November 5, 2013
Go Go GPS Bullets
In a world where new gadgets and inventions are fired at us like ammo from a consumerist machine gun, it’s not that often you hear about something and think, “Ah, cool!” But I did when I heard about GPS bullets.
Not because I think coming up with slick, hi-tech ways of killing of people is all that great, but in a boyish “that sounds like James Bond” sort of way. Anyway, the bullets are not intended to pierce skin and supposedly are only going to be used in car chases. They are designed to minimize risk to innocent bystanders in that chaotic situation by ‘sticking’ to the escaping car and then allowing police to track it. Police can therefore end the chase and reduce the risk of potential carnage.
At $500 a bullet, they are too expensive to spray around willy-nilly, so it’s a good job they have the capacity to do exactly what they are intended to. The system, called StarChase, is currently being used in four states in the US: Iowa, Florida, Arizona and Colorado. It is expected to expand, including to the UK.
According to the Huffington Post, there are around 100,000 car chases in the US each year. With such a wide scale to the problem, the bullets could represent a significant shift in law enforcement. Trevor Fischbach, President of StarChase, claims that the bullets are already making a big difference: “This is an important tactic for the police. We’ve already made a difference, from rescuing little girls from human trafficking to stopping drivers under the influence.”
The bullets are fired from a little cannon that pops up on the police car, identifies the target with a laser and then releases, very much like something from tongue-in-cheek fiction. The StarChase website calls the cannon a “compressed-air launcher.” You can see a photo of it by clicking on those words on their site. It looks a bit like Johnny 5 from Short Circuit.
After reading about this, I ended up exploring which Bond gadgets have become a reality. Smartwatches are obviously very Bond, and on the verge of becoming widespread. There are also plenty of things out there that are just commercialized versions of Bond stuff, such as a key ring bug detector available for $50. I’m not sure who sweeps their house or office with stuff bought on the Internet, but fine.
But one surprising thing I did find was that spinning license plates, first used by Bond on his Aston Martin, are being used by Far Eastern criminals. Police in China are having a major problem keeping up with criminals who can flip their license plate at the flick of a switch. Having never been involved in a high-speed car chase in China (more’s the pity), this sounded a bit far-fetched, but a Reuters article confirmed it.